Will a court pay attention?

April 13, 2021

If I had harbored even an iota of doubt about Junior Chandler’s innocence, it would’ve been vaporized by the podcast episode below.

Most dramatically, the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic’s meticulously assembled “Impossibility Exhibit” demonstrates that Junior was nowhere near the scene of his imaginary crimes….

But is the court paying attention?


Today’s random selection from the Little Rascals Day Care archives….


Is psychiatry ready to face up to its denial?

140201NollFeb. 1, 2014

“As our medical schools and graduate programs fill with students who were born after 1989, we meet young mental health professionals-in-training who have no knowledge or
living memory of the Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) moral panic of the 1980s and early 1990s. To those of us old enough to have been there, that era already seems like a curious relic of the past, bracketed in our memory palaces behind a door we are loathe to open again.

“Some mass cultural phenomena are so emotionally-charged, so febrile, and in retrospect so causally incomprehensible, that we feel compelled to move on silently and feign forgetfulness…

“Despite the discomfort it brings, we owe it to the current generation of clinicians to remember that an elite minority within the American psychiatric profession played a small
but ultimately decisive role in the cultural validation, and then reduction, of the Satanism moral panic between 1988 and 1994….

“Are we ready now to reopen a discussion on this moral panic? Will both clinicians and historians of psychiatry be willing to be on record?”

– From “When Psychiatry Battled the Devil” by Richard Noll in Psychiatric Times (Dec. 6, 2013)

Wow! After more than two years of seeing mental health professionals shrug off responsibility for the moral panic they promoted, I can hardly believe what I’m reading. Noll, an accomplished author and professor, traces how it all happened – and asks, “Shall we continue to silence memory, or allow it to speak?”

An early vote to silence memory came from an unexpected source: Psychiatric Times itself, which clumsily pulled Noll’s piece from its website.

By contrast, Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke, offered a powerful – and I hope influential – personal mea culpa.

‘So, Paula, do YOU think I should pardon them?’

150429McCroryApril 29, 2015

“Wednesday marks the 230th day that Governor Pat McCrory has refused to grant a pardon of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit.

“The two men, both mentally disabled and struggling to pay their bills, need the pardon from McCrory to be eligible for financial compensation from the state for the years they were wrongly incarcerated. McCrory received the petition September 11 of last year.

“McCrory has been busy of course, most recently taking an unannounced trip to Los Angeles where he appeared on a panel at conference (and hobnobbed) with Paula Abdul and other celebrities at an event called the Global Gourmet Games….

“Meanwhile Henry McCollum and Leon Brown are still waiting for justice from McCrory and still struggling to pay their water bill….”

– From “Day 230 of Gov. McCrory denying justice to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown” by Chris Fitzsimon at the Progressive Pulse (April 19)

It’s not just Junior Chandler and the Edenton Seven who suffer from the indifference of elected officials who hold the power to at last do right by them.

To withhold compensation from the hapless McCollum and Brown seems especially heartless. If McCrory has an explanation for his nearly eight months of foot-dragging, he’s not revealing it – unless maybe he spilled to his tablemates at the Global Gourmet Games….

The long goodbye: ‘See you in a million years’

Feb. 8, 2012

The indignities endured by Little Rascals defendants were unending and sometimes bizarre. A University of Georgia professor enlisted by the defense to conduct a penile plethysmograph reported that Bob Kelly was aroused by videotapes and slides of only normal heterosexual activity. But the prosecution’s expert countered that not every sex offender would be caught by the test.

Fearful of a clear-thinking jury, prosecutors never missed an opportunity for gratuitous vilification. Nancy Lamb histrionically held up gold-framed portraits of 12 children as she denounced Kelly as “an evil, evil man.” H.P. Williams Jr. saw “no reason he should be restored to the community at any time.”

And how’s this for a melodramatic climax, as reported by the Associated Press:

“Some of Mr. Kelly’s victims, clutching dolls and teddy bears, sat in the front row of the spectators’ section as Judge D. Marsh McLelland… passed sentence (of 12 consecutive life terms). Later, as guards escorted Mr. Kelly out of the courtroom to a police car for the trip to a state prison in Raleigh, some of the children yelled at him, ‘I hate you!’… ‘See you in a million years!’ ”

Among the costs of incarceration: a marriage

Jan. 9, 2012

Perhaps the most inexplicable of the prosecution’s targets was 40-year-old Scott Privott, owner of an Edenton video store and shoe repair shop.

Son of a district court judge, he served as president of the local country club. No evidence ever surfaced to support the rumor that Privott’s video store was a hub for child pornography or to counter his claim never to have even set foot on the Little Rascals premises. According to the prosecution, children at the day care identified him as a perpetrator.

120109PrivottIn April 1993 his bail was reduced from $1 million to $50,000, and he was released on bond from Chowan County Jail. Fourteen months later, Privott accepted the state’s offer of a plea of no contest, still insisting on his innocence, and received a sentence of time served with an additional five years probation.

He says he has been happily married for 14 years and doesn’t want to reveal where he now lives. I asked him to share some recollections about the case:

“Bob and I were more acquaintances than close friends. I played golf with him when he was the pro. Bob rented movies from my store, and he and many others would come by and have coffee and just talk. In fact, many of the accusing parents rented movies from me. (Bob Kelly suspects Privott may have been drawn into the case when Kelly’s truck was seen parked in front of the video store.)….

“In jail I spent the time reading and watching TV. We weren’t allowed newspapers, so I wasn’t sure what was being written about the case…. At times it was hard to keep my spirits up. I had gallbladder surgery and recuped at Central Prison in Raleigh and at McCain (Correctional Hospital in Raeford, closed in 2010)….

“Jail had just a walled-in area for outside activity, but at McCain I enjoyed being able to walk around the yard with others awaiting trial…I was in “safekeeping” and actually met some intelligent, thoughtful people. I never had any problems, as the majority knew the entire LRDC case was a farce….

“My wife came on Sundays, but as the years rolled on the visits were less and less, and then I noted a change I had been kind of expecting. She brought my mother with her, and in the later years she stood back and kind of let the visits be between mother and son. It turned out she had met someone new in her life. She didn’t have the nerve to tell me, but I figured it out….”

Investigator still believes Kelly was guilty

130513McCallMay 13, 2013

“On January 20, (1989, Audrey) Stever met with (social workers) David McCall and Grenda Costin, who told Ms. Stever that there was going to be an investigation into the day care. They also suggested to Ms. Stever that they put Kyle in therapy (and) that ‘they thought something was going on’ at the day care.

“On January 21, (Brenda) Toppin, Ms. Costin and Mr. McCall came to interview Kyle at his home. Ms. Stever prepared Kyle by telling him that he needed to be a ‘police helper’ to help figure out why the children at the day care were sad.”

– From brief for Bob Kelly before N.C. Court of Appeals (1994)

“As an initial social services investigator in the Robert Kelly case, I believe justice was served with this verdict…. A Salem-style witch-hunt did not occur, and a perpetrator of crimes against children was justly convicted. A significant battle in the war against child sexual abuse was fought and won in Edenton….”

–From “Crimes Against Children: A Guide to Child Protection for Parents and Professionals featuring the Little Rascals Day Care Sex Scandal” by David E. McCall (1995)

I asked McCall if he still believes justice was served in Little Rascals. “I stand on my original substantiation of abuse by Robert Kelly,” he said. “I was not involved in the investigation of the others charged.”

He said he went into the case with “significant training” in investigating abuse, adding that “If you ever want a child interviewed to find the truth, I really feel like I’m pretty good at that.”

McCall later left social work and now sells real estate in Edenton.

Beware of jurors wearing deerstalker caps

Dennis T. Ray


Dennis T. Ray

April 10, 2016

“(Daniel Green’s) Durham-based defense team says it has new evidence that challenges major parts of the prosecution’s case, while bolstering their request for a new trial. They claim that misleading testimony and misconduct by the prosecutor and jury helped send Green to prison for (the 1993 murder of James Jordan) he did not commit.

“The evidence outlined in court documents includes… a sworn statement from the jury forewoman who admits she did her own investigation of Jordan’s murder, which violated a judge’s order. Paula Locklear says that during the trial, she visited the South Carolina creekside where the body was found and developed her own theory on how the killing occurred. A Charlotte legal expert says her action amounts to a ‘tremendous problem’ for the original case and could get Green’s conviction overturned….”

– From “New questions raised in slaying case of Michael Jordan’s father” by Michael Gordon and Mark Washburn in the Charlotte Observer (April 9) (cached)

Sound familiar? It should! As a juror in Bob Kelly’s trial, Dennis T. Ray not only conducted his own “crime” scene surveys, but also shared a Cosmopolitan article about how to identify child molesters, relayed incriminating claims from a jailhouse snitch and even displayed a supposed “magic key” described by child witnesses.

Unfortunately, Judge Marsh McLelland didn’t consider Ray’s rogue behavior – or that of a second juror, who dramatically revealed during deliberations that he himself had been abused as a child – to be a “tremendous problem.”

In fact, McLelland found precious few reasons to take issue with the prosecution’s case.

Read more here (cached here).


Did prosecutors sell out for name recognition?

121112RobertsNov. 12, 2012

“It is not conceivable that any of the prosecutors (in cases such as Little Rascals) believed a word of the charges responsible for ruining the lives of so many people. The cases were brought for one reason alone: to gain name recognition for the prosecutors.”

– From “The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice” by Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton (2008)

Could prosecutors really have sold their souls (not to mention their public trust) for mere “name recognition”? Or did their lust for guilty verdicts blind them to the obvious?

Most days, the latter seems more likely to me. Or perhaps a hybrid….

Indisputably, however, career benefits did attach to trumpeting from the courthouse steps that you’ve sent away Bob Kelly for 12 consecutive life sentences.